As a family dentist in Eugene, our team at Feldmanis Family Dentistry understands firsthand the dangers daily teeth grinding poses to our patients’ long-term oral health. If you regularly clench your jaw or grind your teeth – a condition referred to clinically as bruxism – it’s not just the health of your teeth and jaw muscles that suffer. Patients who suffer from chronic teeth grinding may develop a range of side effects that include insomnia, dizziness, earaches, headaches, and even hearing loss. Patients may also over-develop their jaw muscles. This makes bruxism a condition that does more than just wear down teeth, and makes it so that Dr. Feldmanis can actually diagnosis some cases just by examining the patient’s mouth.
When you know what to look for, the telltale signs of teeth grinding are fairly easy to identify. Dr. Feldmanis can immediately recognize teeth that have become worn down where tiny chips and cracks in the teeth begin to appear that often develop into brown stains. Grinding also wears tooth enamel down, further weakening the structure of teeth, which could cause them to crack. Not only does grinding impact the health and appearance of a patient’s teeth – the condition may also cause them to become overly sensitive to hot or cold foods and drinks.
Teeth grinding can also negatively impact your existing dental work. Fillings, implants, and bridges can all wear down, crack, or become less effective in the mouths of patients who grind their teeth. In fact, dental implants are actually seven times more likely to fail for teeth grinders.
The Causes of Grinding
The majority of grinding cases – up to 70 percent – are directly linked to stress, according to The Bruxism Association, with job-related stress ranking as the most significant factor. A patient may also start grinding if a new filling isn’t quite even with the rest of the tooth, creating an imbalanced bite.
Teeth grinding also occurs more frequently in those who drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, take stimulants, or take prescription medications for depression, anxiety, or sleep. Those suffering from a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea or snoring, are also more likely to grind their teeth at night. Studies have found that teeth grinding may even be genetic as between 21 to 50 percent of people who grind their teeth have a direct relative that also suffers from the condition.
Teeth grinding doesn’t just happen at night either. While “awake” bruxism occurs far less frequently that nightly grinding, it does exist, though it is more likely to manifest as teeth or jaw clenching than grinding.
Treating Teeth Grinding
Since the majority of teeth grinding occurs at night during sleep, many patients never realize they suffer from the condition until informed of their habits by a bed partner. However, if you suffer from frequent headaches, migraines, or find that your teeth have become sensitive to hot or cold, or have become loose, schedule an appointment with your family dentist in Eugene to see Dr. Feldmanis. She will be able to provide a diagnosis for your grinding and start treating the condition before the symptoms become severe.
The most common way to treat grinding is with an oral device that protects the teeth, while also realigning and retraining the jaw muscles to help prevent long-term grinding and to finally break the habit.
The oral device is made from a hard plastic that’s molded to fit exactly over a patient’s upper or lower teeth. While you can buy “boil and bite” mouth guards over-the-counter, they don’t offer the same level of comfort or effectiveness as a guard that’s custom made.
While treating grinding is important to protecting your long-term health, it’s also important to treat the underlying condition that caused the grinding to begin with. Since stress is the most likely culprit, patients are encouraged to take steps to reduce their stress levels, which include activities like exercise, meditation, and therapy.